Our modern routine is full of tasks, obligations, calls and overall a huge amount of distractions.
How do some people handle the stress and stay more productive than the others? The answer is deep work - a process of focusing on one thing without distraction.
A popular book called “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World”, written by Georgetown University professor Cal Newport unpacks the methods to develop a set of skills essential for achieving great exceptional results of work through the deep work phenomenon.
The origins of methodology
Newport defines deep work as “Professional activity performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that pushes your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.”
The author’s central principle - the deep work, is the kind of research you will need to develop to succeed in your career. He outlines the key reasons why deep work matters:
- The speed of change is accelerating. The hard skills we have today may be useless in 5 years. Deep work gives us a practical method to continuously learn and reinvent ourselves.
- Secondly, deep work helps you produce original work of higher quality. Mediocracy simply doesn’t cut it in a world where you compete in a global playing field.
He highlights 3 major benefits to establish a deep work practice:
- It’s valuable as it enables us to learn new skills more quickly, as well as leverage our existing skill set.
- It’s differentiated because as the world becomes full of distractions, less people are able to go deep.
- It’s meaningful because we get more meaning and fulfillment out of being focused in our daily work.
Types of work
Newport divides work into 2 categories:
Shallow work - Tasks that are logistical or non-cognitive: they are easy to replicate and are often performed in a state of distraction.
Deep work - Tasks that are generating new value and are not subject to replication: they push cognitive capabilities to their limit and are expected to be performed in a distraction-free environment.
Deep work vs Distraction
Deep work is not something the majority of people are able to practise. To become successful in doing deep work, you have to practice a lot.
Unfortunately, in the modern world, there are a lot of barriers preventing the typical employee from practicing deep work. Firstly, we're supposed to be constantly online. Email and corporate apps, messengers make the instant communication, sometimes out of working hours, a regular thing.
There are other distractions that chase us throughout the whole day. Social media is always attracting us with something new and wasting our valuable time, colleagues invite us for an online chat, and eventually, you get calls from friends and family.
Below are a few steps to help you achieve deep work.
1. Ritualize Deep Work
Our brain likes it when we establish a routine. To integrate deep work into your workday, helps to identify the principles of dedication in advance.
The following 3 rituals can help:
- Become very good at agenda management: you need to structure things like the space and the duration of the work you are willing to do. It is crucial to know in advance what exactly you are going to do during your deep work time. With an agenda in mind, you would stay concentrated and proceed to the predefined assignment.
- Finding a place where none and nothing will distract you is essential, as this will help you to stay focused.
- Finally, make sure you have all the tools you need to help you throughout your deep work time. Books, equipment, food, and anything else that might make you happy.
2. Execute Like a Business
Thanks to its effectiveness, deep work allows you to concentrate on the most important: a limited set of goals that optimize your deep efforts. Those targets will demand and inspire you to dig further.
In accordance with this approach, organizations use key performance indicators (KPIs), the main metrics for efficiency. This theory can also be used in your deep work routine as well to help monitor self-productivity.
3. Schedule when the Internet is allowed
Being always online is a constant habit in today's digital world. Very often the internet distracts us while doing an important task so minimizing and controlling when and how long we can access it, can create magic. You should identify a time period when the Internet is allowed. This helps to prioritize critical tasks and get everything done on time.
4. Quit Social Media
Many of us spend a solid amount of time daily on just scrolling down our Facebook or Instagram. Try to stop that habit and instead devote that time to deep work. Whether you are not sure if you need to quit social media at all or partially, just be honest with yourself and ask if spending time on social networks really gives you a sense of fulfillment. If not, then you will for sure find something more exciting and useful.
5. Plan your day by minutes
Part of the reason why distraction is so easy is that we don't have a day structure. The absence of deadlines and restrictions makes us hop from one task to another, without understanding that the result is not satisfying at all.
By planning our day in advance, we need to split it into smaller segments and decide the amount of time each task requires. If there are any unexpected things arising, you can always adjust them to your daily schedule. The schedule planned in advance allows you to value your time and find a right work/life balance.
6. Become hard to reach
Being accessible 24/7 is not always comfortable as the risk of getting distracted is absolutely high. Try to become inaccessible while you are in the deep work sessions. Switch off your phone, your internet, and concentrate on the moment.